An estimated 1,500 pro-freedom demonstrators continued to rally outside the New Zealand Parliament on Friday in defiance of the police and the government. They gathered in what was described as a carnival atmosphere just 24-hours after some 120 of their number were arrested and removed.
After witnessing the shocking footage of how New Zealand’s police handled the protestors, who were initially supported by politicians and allowed onto the lawn outside the Wellington parliament, alongside the mass arrests – including a lady who was dragged naked by her hair across the lawn by the police – the freedom convoy crowd has now increased from 200 to 1,500.
Reports have emerged that protestors have repitched new tents after police initially confiscated some, as well as erecting a marquee to protect themselves from forecast rain and some have even set up portaloos, the New Zealand Herald reports.
A protestor holds a sign during a demonstration at Parliament on February 11, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Protestors look on during a protest at Parliament on February 11, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
While a hardcore of protestors camp on the parliament’s grounds they are supported by individuals who arrive through the day who either camp nearby, sleep in their cars or are local or new support.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is among those who have lambasted the NZ’s government’s heavy handed approach tweeting out:
“If you occupy private land like Ihumatao you can stay as long as you want & the govt embraces you. If you occupy public land the govt will trespass you the same day & label you a minority”.
One demonstrator who spoke to the Herald said as a result “of the police action” the protest was “about to get a whole lot bigger.”
Despite a fretful night with many of the campers claiming to be unable to sleep, no additional arrests were reported by the protestors, with the large numbers of arrivals on Friday, appearing to have made the police back off.
There have also been reports that considerable numbers of children are expected to join the protest.
Those who have been arrested will be unlikely to return despite being bailed, as they have all been slapped with trespass notices which prohibit them from entering the parliament’s grounds. Police have said they are using drones and CCTV to identify anyone who returns.
The protestors are rallied against a multitude of coronavirus restrictions, from vaccine pass requirements for a number of public activities such as religious services and sports events, as well as vaccine mandates for certain jobs such as for health professionals or police officers.
Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell has released in a statement that more officers are being deployed into Wellington from across the country and that the protests seen were “unprecedented for New Zealand”, with the nation not seeing “an occupation of this scale” before.
Parnell has also suggested that there is no clear leader of the freedom convoy, with a multitude of groups and individuals in attendance, which makes any meaningful negotiations with the protest somewhat impossible – intensified by the fact protestors said they would remain there “as long as it takes“.
Vehicles from the freedom convoy that continue to block roads have started being ticketed by enforcement officers, and the government are reportedly considering drafting in the army to remove them.